barbarastone [13.09 17:49]  

Montesquieu and Tocqueville’s Political Thoughts

Montesquieu is the representative of the French Age of Enlightenment, famous writer and lawyer. His works mainly concern the issues of philosophy, sociology, politics, and literature. One of his most significant works is The Spirit of the Laws that describes the author’s humanistic and educational standpoints. The main value of his theory is political freedom that comprises reasonable law and the proper organization of the state. People are governed by natural laws that include the desire to live in peace and feel secure. Moreover, such laws are not just instinctive, but reasonable, as far as human thinking plays the crucial role in the instruction of our daily actions. Human’s innate qualities are to be frightened and solitary, and their reason possesses only limited principles. However, when they integrate into society, many conflicts and disagreements arise, and people start to demonstrate their natural inclination toward exploiting each other. Thus, it is important to establish laws that will make it possible to preserve peace and safety. According to Montesquieu, many things are created and controlled by people, such as government, climate, religion, and customs, and as the result of this, a common national spirit arises. The corresponding form and norms of the state depend on the spirit of every nation and consequently they have to be unique. Nature and principles of government make a crucial influence on law. Furthermore, Montesquieu distinguishes three forms of government, such as republican, monarchical, and despotic. He considers republic the most acceptable, since the power belongs fully or partly to people, while monarchical form of government is conducted by one person that applies strictly established laws. The abnormal form is despotic, in which one person regulates the whole state without adhering to any laws. Additionally, he emphasizes that political liberty is possible when a moderate government is established. Therefore, it is important to separate government into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. Such a system will help distribute functions among powers. Thus, Montesquieu’s contribution to political development cannot be underestimated, as he was the first who measured the influence of the environment on political government.
Alexis de Tocqueville is a prominent French politician and historian. He is best known for his work Democracy in America, which was written while travelling through America in order to gather information about the American system of government. Tocqueville considered liberty to be a necessary part of personal development, though liberty and democracy did not necessarily need to coexist together. He was sure that democratic government was unavoidable and would be established in every state instead of aristocracy. Tocqueville regarded America to be the first state in which democratic organization of the country was fully realized. According to him, equality of social status between people should be guaranteed, namely equality in the spheres of economic, social, and political life. Besides this, there is also mental equality, in which one person is not better than another one and does not possess any individual features. Thus, experts are absent in such a society that leads to the emergence of mass culture, in which the life of many individuals is controlled by a small quantity of people in power. Such people usually manipulate and persuade the majority opinion. Tocqueville has introduced the notion of “tyranny of the masses,” when opinions and interests of the majority are taken into account unlike interests of the minority. This situation provokes the majority's striving for material prosperity, increase of people’s isolation, and decline of arts. If there is peace and economic independence, citizens will not be interested in political life and will tend to trust the government. Therefore, this tendency causes the emergence of remote government that leads to despotism, which weakens not only liberty but also strong wish to have liberty. One of the most serious obstacles that democracy raises to liberty is centralization of a state. He assumed the importance of separating powers and applying local self-government that should be decentralization. Thus, Tocqueville was the outstanding theoretician of democracy and consistent liberal, who managed to describe the dangers of establishing democracy worldwide.
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